Utah Jazz Forward Joe Ingles’ 2019-20 Season Review

USA Utah News

For nearly five years, Joe Ingles has been perhaps the steadiest presence on the Utah Jazz. He’s appeared in every one of the team’s games since December 2015, giving him an ironman streak of 368 games (the longest active streak in the league).

This year, his role with the Jazz was anything but steady. He went from sixth man to starter and back to reserve over the course of this abbreviated campaign. And that lack of stability cost Ingles some individual production.

Ingles posted his lowest averages for points (9.8) and threes (1.9) since 2016-17. His three-point percentage was a point below his career mark. His 0.7 box plus/minus was his lowest since 2015-16.

But he was every bit the 3-and-D presence he was in years past when he was on the floor with the starters.

In the 37 games he started, Ingles averaged 11.2 points and 6.1 assists, with a 61.1 true shooting percentage and a 43.2 three-point percentage. In the 27 games he came off the bench, he put up 7.8 points and 3.9 assists, with a 54.6 true shooting percentage and a 33.9 three-point percentage.

Over the 873 minutes in which he shared the floor with Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic, Ingles averaged 12.4 points and 5.9 assists per 75 possessions, with a 64.5 true shooting percentage. Utah was plus-9.8 points per possessions (95th percentile) when those four were on the floor.

But, in an effort to work newcomers Mike Conley and Bogdanovic into the rotation with roles they were used to, Ingles was something of a sacrificial lamb. The coaching staff likely knew Ingles wouldn’t put up a fuss if asked to come off the bench. And he didn’t, despite plenty of evidence to suggest he should remain a starter.

Despite all this, Ingles still managed to perform like a top-100 player this season. If you sort every player in the league by the average of their ranks in six catch-all metrics (as well as their cumulative variants), Ingles finished the season at No. 87. Here is where he ranked in the individual rate numbers:

  • ESPN’s real plus-minus: 98th
  • FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR: 92nd
  • Basketball Reference’s box plus/minus: 108th
  • Basketball Index’s player impact plus-minus: 70th
  • Basketball Reference’s game score per 36 minutes: 216th
  • NBA.com/stats’ player impact estimate: 156th

If the NBA is able to conduct a postseason in 2020, the Jazz would be wise to return Ingles to the starting lineup.

Mitchell’s ultimate potential may be realized at the 1. He’s simply undersized as a 2. And the increased defensive switchability of lineups that feature Ingles, Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale relieve some pressure from Gobert. Having O’Neale out there in general is probably necessary, given the defensive shortcomings of Mitchell and Bogdanovic. O’Neale has helped Utah’s defense in each of his three NBA seasons.

Of course, there are some optics issues with bringing Conley off the bench. He’s making a team-high $32.5 million and was finally starting to look like his 2018-19 self over the last few weeks before the season was suspended.

Still, wide-open seasons like 2019-20 don’t come along often. A number of teams have a real shot at the title. Utah can join that group if it plays its most postseason-ready lineups. And Conley should theoretically be able to pick apart second units.

Ultimately, that probably isn’t the direction coach Quin Snyder will go. Again, Ingles is the one who won’t make any fuss about coming off the bench. O’Neale probably wouldn’t either, but his defense is even more important if Conley and Mitchell are both on the floor.

Determining the level of success for Ingles in 2019-20 may still depend on how will he can adapt to this new sixth-man role in the playoffs.

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